How to Manage PCOS as a Teen

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects females, usually beginning during the teenage or young adult years. The condition causes the body to make excess androgens, including testosterone. Too much testosterone can cause hair growth on the face or chest, acne, and irregular periods and each person who has PCOS can have a different combination and timing of these symptoms.

PCOS typically runs in families and scientists have recently identified some of the genes involved in the syndrome.

Doctor talking to patient in examination room
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Diagnosis

Symptoms of PCOS usually appear during the teenage or young adult years.

The diagnostic criteria include:

  • Abnormal ovulation, as indicated by abnormal periods
  • Physical signs of elevated androgens, such as excess body hair
  • Elevated androgens in the bloodwork

Sometimes it takes time for teenagers to get a diagnosis of PCOS because many of the symptoms are similar to normal changes of adolescence. For example, many teens have irregular periods, acne, or rapid body or facial hair growth, even if they don’t have PCOS.

Diagnostic Testing

If your healthcare provider suspects that you have PCOS, you might have some diagnostic tests.

Blood tests are used to check the levels of certain hormones, including FSH, LH, DHEA-S, and testosterone.

Your healthcare provider may do an ultrasound of your ovaries to check for cysts, which are common in PCOS. To get the best view, a transvaginal ultrasound may be used. This is where the ultrasound probe is placed into the vagina instead of on top of the abdomen.

If you are a virgin or uncomfortable with the procedure, your healthcare provider may consider using abdominal ultrasound, but the ovaries are not as clearly visible with this test. Ovarian cysts can occur with PCOS, although they aren't necessary for a diagnosis.

What to Expect With PCOS

If you are diagnosed with PCOS, you should know that it’s not deadly or terribly serious. Your healthcare provider may recommend certain lifestyle changes and regular follow-up visits to help you manage the effects of your condition.

Managing weight can help reduce some of the hormonal imbalances for some people who have PCOS. People with PCOS often have a harder time losing weight. It might be helpful to see a dietitian, who may suggest strategies to help you reach your optimal weight—such as getting regular exercise and making sure that your meals include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

It's also important that you talk to your healthcare provider if you aren't getting a regular period. Your practitioner might prescribe the birth control pill or other hormonal supplements to ensure that you get a regular period.

You should also talk to your healthcare provider about any annoying or embarrassing symptoms that could be caused by your PCOS, such as acne or unwanted hair growth. Often, procedures or medications can help reduce these effects.

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5 Sources
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